PITTSBURGH — One of the weirdest sequences of the season took place in Pittsburgh on Thursday night when Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brayden Point needed just 91 seconds of game-time to score three consecutive power play goals in their 4-3 win over the Penguins.
How exactly did that happen?
After dominating the first 19 minutes of the game and building a two-goal lead (with a pair of power play goals of their own), the Penguins melted down at the end of the first period by taking three consecutive penalties in a span of 20 seconds.
First, Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin were called for tripping and slashing on the same play to give the Lightning a full two-minute, five-on-three advantage.
Just 20 seconds in to that power play Matt Cullen took a tripping penalty of his own to put three Penguins in the penalty box. Because the Penguins were already down two players on the ice his penalty would not begin until one of his teammates penalties expired (or was wiped out by a goal).
Just 10 seconds after Cullen was sent to the box, Point scored his first goal of the game (and 10th of the season) when he took advantage of a clear lane to the net and wired a shot just under the crossbar to get Tampa Bay on the board with 2.7 seconds to play in the period.
At this point Cullen’s penalty began, keeping the Lightning on an extended two-man advantage.
Just 41 seconds, into the second period Point tied the game with his second goal of the night by one-timing a Steven Stamkos pass behind Penguins goalie Matt Murray.
They made it look easy.
He credited this goal to all of the attention that Stamkos and his shot get on the power play.
“Not a set play, but it’s just guys worry about his shot so much and that’s such a heads up play by him to find me on the back post,” said Point. “I don’t think it’s a set play. It’s just a really creative, smart play by him.”
At this point Cullen’s penalty was the only one still on the board, and it took Point just 47 seconds to give the Lightning the lead with his 12th goal of the season when he blasted a shot into the net from the slot.
Three goals in 91 seconds is the sixth fastest hat trick in NHL history and the fastest since Derek King of the New York Islanders scored three goals in 78 seconds (also against the Penguins) in 1991.
Point was very understated about the whole thing after the game.
“They told me after the game,” Point said when asked if he was aware of where it stood in NHL history. “That’s pretty cool. Obviously just a couple 5-on-3 situations. You’re going to get put out in those spots and guys found me so, but just pretty cool.”
When asked later if he has ever had a night like this at any level of hockey, he again deflected credit to his teammates and the situation.
“No, that’s a first for me,” he said. “But like I said, guys made good plays and I was able to score.”
It was more impressive than he let on, based on nothing more than the fact that almost no one in league history has done anything like it.
The other players in the top-five for fastest hat tricks:
- Bill Mosienko with three goals in 21 seconds for the Chicago Blackhawks in 1952
- Jean Beliveau with three goals in 44 seconds for the Montreal Canadiens in 1956
- Jack Darragh with three goals in 60 seconds for the Ottawa Senators in 1919
- King with three goals in 78 seconds for the Islanders in 1991
- Harry Oliver with three goals 85 seconds for Boston Bruins in 1927
Beliveau scored his three goals in 44 seconds on the same power play as players served the entire penalty in those days whether or not a power play goal was scored.
This is also the fastest hat trick in Tampa Bay Lightning history, breaking the record that was originally held by Martin St. Louis (three goals in 6:17).
“It’s just great to see because he’s such a hard worker and plays the game the right way,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said regarding Point’s night. “You like to see those guys get rewarded and he was.”
Point, still only 22 years old, is quickly developing into one of the Lightning’s best players and a core piece for a Stanley Cup contender. His three goals on Thursday give him a team-leading 22 points.
He is coming off of a 32-goal, 66-point performance a year ago and is on track to exceed all of those numbers this season.
MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.